December 15, 2019

The Editor Speaks: Literacy

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On Saturday September 8th we celebrate International Literacy Day.

In today’s iNews Cayman we have published a number of articles concerning literacy including the persons who are at the centre of literacy, our teachers.

Our Minister for Education, Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly has sent us her Message on Literacy Day where she states:

“In order to develop a strong economy, it is vital that all children have access to an education that provides a strong foundation of core skills, such as literacy. Every child in the has access to an education, which offers all students the possibility of leading a dignified , of taking charge of their own future, and of assuming their share of responsibility in society. We must continue work to elevate the literacy rate and to ensure all students are reading at a functional level for employment.

“I implore all individuals, whether parents or not, to take an active role in the development of our youth and their skills, especially the love of reading. Read to your children, read to other children at schools, or become a reading mentor through the LIFE (Literacy Is For Everyone) programme. Children do what they see, and if more adults around them are enjoying reading and learning, then those are values that will be passed on.

“Through the continued enhancement of our education system, I pray schools will continue to evolve into learning hubs for students and their families. We must all collaborate to ensure our youth are being provided with the best opportunities and develop all the skills they need to thrive in the Cayman Islands and the world.

“On International Literacy Day, I pray to the Lord to provide us with the strength and tools we need to ensure every citizen is literate and is being supported to live their optimal life.”

Please read the whole of her Message that we have published in full.

We have also published a letter from Michael Theodore, Attorney-at-Law/Consultant, who is making a case for literacy as it relates to the legal profession.

His letter commences:

“The entire Caribbean is suffering from dire economic circumstances where any financial expenditure must be carefully weighed against its benefits and any alternative methods of accomplishing its objectives.

“When it comes to the Council of Legal Education, many governments who are now considering establishing their own law schools have had difficulty in meeting their financial contributions to the Council. Indeed, the governments of Guyana and Jamaica have reneged on their obligations under the agreement establishing the Council to pay the financial cost of their nationals attending the Council’s law schools and the government of Barbados has recently reduced its financial commitment to its own students.

“One common justification for the reallocation of financial resources has been that there are now enough lawyers in these territories and the education of additional lawyers is not as important as the education of doctors, engineers and other professionals or investment in other areas of the national economy.”

You can read the whole article under the title of “Letter: The Council of Legal Education – where legal education and politics collide”.

And last, but not least is an article claiming “It’s time to pay teachers”.

The pay the writer is talking about is a subject we have dwelt on before – paying teachers for their time in marking the School Based Assessments (SBAs). The writer claims “CXC and the Ministry of Education, however, curiously believe that just one aspect of the examination marking process is exempt from the arrangement that prevails in all the other aspects outlined above.”

The ‘arrangement that prevails” is that “THE CARIBBEAN Examinations Council (CXC) pays for the services of teachers, specifically for marking of its exams. Each year, teachers across the Caribbean are hired as examiners whose duties are to mark examination scripts of the January and May/June examinations and, in the case of modern languages, to conduct and mark oral examinations.”

The article ends with:

“Instead of expressing gratitude to teachers for going beyond the call of duty, the ministry has threatened disciplinary action for teachers demanding simply to be compensated for their labour.

“Instead of lobbying in teachers’ interest or acknowledging the onerous weight that SBA preparation and marking foists on teachers, CXC has created more elaborate marking and non-marking demands on teachers of its syllabuses, including electronic data entry and assessment design.

“The ministry has exploited the goodwill of teachers for so long that it would take collective, resolute action of teachers to convince it that teachers should be paid to mark SBAs. From this month, we act. Our members will not mark SBAs without compensation. TTUTA says to the ministry, no more! It’s time to pay teachers.”

End

It is ironic that literacy starts and ends with teaching it. Without teachers literacy rates will fall and literacy is a key component of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

From National Literacy Trust website:

“Why is literacy important?

“Lacking vital literacy skills holds a person back at every stage of their life. As a child they won’t be able to succeed at school, as a young adult they will be locked out of the job market, and as a parent they won’t be able to support their own child’s learning. This intergenerational cycle makes social mobility and a fairer society more difficult.

“People with low literacy skills may not be able to read a book or newspaper, understand road signs or price labels, make sense of a bus or train timetable, fill out a form, read instructions on medicines or use the internet.

“Low levels of literacy undermine the UK’s economic competitiveness, costing the UK taxpayer £2.5 billion every year (KPMG, 2009). A third of businesses are not satisfied with young people’s literacy skills when they enter the workforce and a similar number have organised remedial training for young recruits to improve their basic skills, including literacy and communication.

“Adults with poor literacy skills will be locked out of the job market and, as a parent, they won’t be able to support their child’s learning.”

END

If you believe low levels of literacy only apply to third world countries…. think again:

England

1 in 7 (14.9% / 5.1 million people) adults in England lack basic literacy skills.

1 in 4 (26.7% / 931,000 people) adults in Scotland experience challenges due to their lack of literacy skills.

1 in 8 (12% / 216,000 people) adults in Wales lack basic literacy skills.

Northern Ireland

1 in 5 (17.9% / 550,000 people) adults in Northern Ireland lack basic literacy skills.

Has anyone executed similar statistics for adult literacy levels here in the Cayman Islands?

If ‘yes’, I would like to know where I can find them. If, ‘no’ I would like to know why not?

Literacy is a key skill and a key measure of a population’s education!

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